Parry does not call the crocodile Cleatus. He refers to him as “the animal”.
“We might be just wasting our time, we might not even see it,” he says.
The reasons for this are multiple. It is, as the sailors say, blowing snot, the wind gusting up to 20 miles per hour at times. Which means the animal would probably be somewhere in the lee, which would probably be out of direct line of sight. It is also a full moon, which means if he approaches the croc, Parry might be backlit and in silhouette, and the animal would see him coming.
Parry says that since Cleatus hasn’t been chased in a while, if he approaches the animal, it might sit and let him slide a noose over its head. Which doesn’t mean that what would follow would be easy.
“A big animal can roll up a rope,” he says. “You try to keep that animal somewhat perpendicular to you. If they wrap it, and get sideways, and start doing a death roll, they can actually roll themselves into a boat.” Like a yo-yo rolling up a string.
A gator once “tail walked” across the surface of the water
He says he used to warn people about this, and then tell them it never actually happened. Until it did one night.
“If I say something like ‘It’s coming in the boat…’” he says, and laughed. “This is not going to happen guys. But if I say ‘It’s coming in the boat.’ Get on the other side of the console. Let the animal do its thing.”
He also tells another story about the time he snared a gator, and it dove deep, then shot up vertically and “tail walked” across the surface of the water.
Also, there are the snaggle teeth—exposed teeth that sometimes grow at odd angles out of the mouths of crocodiles, occasionally through their nostrils. If the animal spins or thrashes, they can cut you good.
We cruise along the edge of Bush Key. Occasionally one of the 50,000 Sooty Terns nesting there crosses the bow and flashes through the spotlight.
Nimmo has a GPS, but mostly navigates the coral heads and sandbars of the shallow harbor by memory.
Parry scans the shoreline. Nothing, and more nothing.
Parry moves the spotlight over a low bush and down the shoreline. Then it moves back to the bush. Beneath it, two golden marbles shimmer emphatically. Cleatus.
Nimmo finesses the boat until it is a hundred yards from the bush and says that’s as far as she can go.
Parry slips off the front of the boat into shin-deep water and starts moving forward, a noose on an eight-foot pole in his hand.
At the edge of the bush he stops, flicks on his headlamp, and sticks his head in. A second later he shoves the snare pole in, followed by the upper half of his body.
The shadow of a croc shoots past Parry, all splash and froth. About ten feet beyond him the animal stops, a taut rope describing a perfect 45-degree vector between where the croc was trying to go and where Parry stands. The croc’s mouth is open. Its teeth gleam in the moonlight.